The Washington Post

Affluent affordabil­ity


As an unabashed progressiv­e Arlington resident of 75 years, I have recently struggled with the “missing middle” proposals as a solution to one of my avowed passions: affordable housing.

At the risk of being redundant, I submit my idea, published 17 years ago (July 16, 2005). On July 13, 2005, Robert J. Samuelson’s op-ed, “Homes as Hummers,” bemoaned the dueling themes of bigger houses (Mcmansions were a thing even back then) and bigger cars (Hummers — Mcvehicles of Gulf War fame). I wrote:

“Driving along the Main Line outside Philadelph­ia, through downtown Hagerstown or beside the town common in Tarboro, N.C., reminds us that Hummer homes are not necessaril­y a new phenomenon. The real problem is that there is no equivalent constructi­on of townhouses, rowhouses, bungalows and apartments that will shelter the rest of society. As affordable housing is demolished or renovated, people are excluded from those communitie­s. Are they to wait in tents for a wave of Hummer foreclosur­es, in hopes that the Hummers were actually conversion vans in disguise?”

Seventeen years later, there are ever more Hummer Houses, a crumbling supply of affordabil­ity, and no interior conversion­s to more than single-family units. The current “missing middle” proposal provides a version of affluent affordabil­ity, but that solution misses the crucial economic goal. The up-zoned built environmen­t diminishes tree canopy, safe play space for children, architectu­ral history and an aesthetic that encourages community, not competitio­n.

Yes, I want “Arlington for Everyone,” but the current plan is no more satisfying than my whimsy of 17 years ago.

Ann Felker, Arlington

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